In what environment does your child feel particularly close to God? It’s not that God is objectively closer to them in those situations, but that they feel God’s closeness more, they sense God to be closer to them.
These “locations” reveal a child’s spiritual style.
Spiritual style is the way we receive the never-ending stream of communication God sends out to humankind.–Christian A. Schwarz
The Rational Style: A child understands the nature of God through logic and science.
Note the items that apply to children in your life to determine whether they likely possess a rational style of spirituality.
- The child’s views the study of science as a wonderful way to learn more about God.
- You would say that the child loves God with her mind.
- The child is curious to find truth wherever it may appear.
- Intellectually learning something new about God is a deep spiritual experience for the child.
- The child considers it positive to have a critical mindset toward spiritual questions.
- The child is skeptical toward a faith that constantly offers “easy solutions.”
- It is important for the child’s faith that his mind is regularly stimulated.
Discovery questions for rational children
If you notice five or more of these characteristics, the child probably has a well-established pattern of expressing spirituality with their mind.
The following questions may be useful as you seek to strengthen their connection with God:
- What questions about God does this raise?
- What is puzzling about it?
- Where is God’s truth in it?
- How are your doubts causing your own faith to gain power and depth?
- What do you want to explore further?
Coming up: The Bold Idealistic Style
Adapted from The 3 Colors of Your Spirituality, by Christian A. Schwarz
Tweetable: In what environment does your child feel particularly close to God? Ideas here for rational kids. Click to Tweet
The tightrope walk may be an apt analogy for one’s teen years. Exhilarating and risky, these years are better navigated following some serious practice time/strength training and a safety net.
“Researchers are beginning to discover the importance of being a spiritual person, especially for teens,” according to Larry Forthun, associate professor at the University of Florida.
What spiritual components comprise practice time/strength training?
- At least one positive friend. Scott, a high school senior, lives with his sister and her boyfriend. Scott found a supportive church youth group. These friends encourage him as he works on submitting college applications and they understand when he says his connection with God is a top priority.
- Nonjudgmental adult(s) with whom to talk freely about emotional, spiritual, intellectual questions or doubts. One such adult said, “We are in an unending narrative of life, in and between generations, passing on to those younger than ourselves, for good or not, whatever we have to offer.” (M. Labberton)
- A form of self-expression (e.g. art, music, writing). “I never would have guessed that, for the quiet girl whose torturous words spilled out like poetry, life is a spiral of family arguments and evictions–a daily battle against the scourge of hopelessness.” (Sandy Banks)
What are the descriptive qualities of a teen’s safety net people?
The Search Institute suggests these qualities:
- Not afraid to discuss spiritual questions, even if you don’t have all the answers.
- Listen to and respect what the teen has to say, even if you do not completely agree.
- Be a good role model of your own spiritual beliefs, practices, and commitments.
- Nurture the teen’s gifts and talents by allowing them to express their spirituality through journals, music, art, etc.
- Help connect the teen with spiritual leaders and mentors, other than yourself.
- Encourage teens to surround themselves with positive friends who strengthen their spiritual growth.
Note: Some ideas for this post were taken from one of a series of documents of the Department of Family, Youth & Community Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension, 05/2011.
Tweetable: Great ideas here for how to be a safety net under the tightrope of a teen’s spirituality. Click to Tweet
Young children are creatures of routine. As much as they may love the occasional adventure, they feel safer knowing they can fall back into their familiar patterns.
See how this father creates a sense of security by making predictable routines for his son’s life:
“I have been actively guiding and setting boundaries with my little one and I know it takes a lot of practice and consistent monitoring. Generally, he will cry for a moment but then want me to comfort him. Before long he runs off to the next project. It is nice to see that he recovers so quickly. When I keep him and those around him (our dog) safe he does have a good time and laughs a lot.”
The human spirit develops a sense of safety in a similar way.
Basic building blocks of spirituality are
- a healthy sense of oneself as a human being and unique individual
- attending to things of eternal significance
Giving children your undivided attention when issues of self-image, conscience or character show up in your interactions with them will help them develop an inner sense of safety.
The beautiful part is that children with a deep sense of safety– physically, emotionally, and spiritually– give themselves the freedom to explore, risk and discover.
Routines that contribute to growth in their human spirit
Ages 12-36 months
- Name the child’s emotions: When your bath is finished, you feel happy.
- Respond as quickly as possible when the child indicates a need like reaching for a book.
- Fold hands before meals to establish a routine of gratitude.
Ages 3-6 years
- When possible, make snacks and meals at the same time every day, building security around “having enough.”.
- Encourage the child to stay at the table for the duration of the meal for social interaction.
- Keep developing your young child’s inner sense of security with these practical ideas for 18 mo – 6 yrs. Click to Tweet
- Routines here can give young children a sense of safety allowing freedom to explore, risk and discover. Click to Tweet
After five years of interviewing adults about their childhood spiritual experiences, I’ve seen common threads. Here’s one: As children, they didn’t have the vocabulary to express how they were processing spirituality and God. Can’t you see it in what this man told me?
“I remember I was four or five years old and feeding white ducks bread crumbs from the top of a playground slide. It seemed very wonderful to me for some reason and I dreamed about it and I can still see myself doing it. My thoughts couldn’t have been very abstract or sophisticated or articulated in any vocabulary I had at the time, but I felt I was in the presence of something greater than myself, in a world beyond the surface world where I was tossing down food onto the white ducks and feeling very whole, free, peaceful.”
That it, isn’t it? Children can’t articulate with the vocabulary they have at the time.
But we can help children build a spiritual vocabulary. We use the same methods we did when we taught them basic vocabulary words.
When they learned animal names, we had picture books of animals, “Where’s the bird? What does the bird say?” And when we went outdoors, “See the bird? Hear the bird?”
Use children’s literature to teach spiritual vocabulary.
It’s packed with stories about the human spirit developing and prevailing. When you read to children, emphasize and repeat age-appropriate spiritual vocabulary words such as right, wrong, conscience, character, wise, forgive, as these concepts come up in the book. Use these vocabulary words in normal everyday conversations. As children get older, you can move on to words like mindful, ethics, purpose, presence, worship, spirit, soul, self and reason.
There’s no need to bottle it up inside.
When they know words like these, they’ll be equipped with a vocabulary to express themselves as they begin to work out the complexities of life. With no need to bottle it up inside, they will talk freely and listen to others, thus understanding how normal and widespread is the spiritual dimension of life.
- Ideas to help children build a spiritual vocabulary by the same method you taught them basic vocabulary. Click to Tweet
- Children don’t know the words to use to express their spiritual experiences. See some ideas here. Click to Tweet